Valentine’s Day Tickets to Paris for Only $480! (Yep, round-trip!)

SGMT | Valentine’s Day Tickets to Paris for Only $480!
SGMT France Paris Bridge Street Lamp posts

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How does Paris for Valentine’s Day next year sound? ^_^

EVA Air, one of the top 10 airlines in the world, is currently offering round-trip tickets to Paris for only $480, for flights departing January, February or March 2017. That’s just a little over PHP 23,000 for tickets that usually cost PHP 50,000 or more! Take note these flights to Paris depart from Hong Kong but you can nearly always get cheap tickets to Hong Kong from the Philippines, so that’s not going to be a problem.

Here’s how to book:

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How to Get a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy

How to Get a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy in Manila, Philippines | SGMT
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When I visited Munich two years ago, I was on a trip through several European cities and had gotten my Schengen visa from the Dutch embassy. For that reason, when last week my mum’s friend asked me to help her get a visa to visit her sister in Germany, I told her I would still have to look up the specific procedure at the German embassy. (You see, procedures can vary among different embassies: some use third-party visa application centers, some handle it themselves; some require cover letters, some don’t; and so on.)

The website of the German embassy in Manila was very helpful but with the wealth of information there, it took several clicks to tease out just the information that I needed. So…I figured it might be useful if I gathered all the information for tourists/family visits and put them all here in one page.

Please note that this guide is for Filipinos who want to go to Germany either (1) for tourism, or (2) to visit family and friends there. The website of the German embassy in Manila can guide you if you want to go to Germany for other purposes:

  • Au pairs (see requirements HERE)
  • Business (see requirements HERE)
  • Employment (get more info HERE)
  • Fairs (see requirements HERE)
  • Family reunion and subsequent permanent stay (see requirements HERE)
  • Jobseekers – highly skilled professionals who want to look for a job in Germany (see requirements HERE)
  • Language course less than 3 months (see requirements HERE)
  • Language course longer than 3 months (see requirements HERE)
  • Marriage and subsequent permanent stay (see requirements HERE)
  • Nurses seeking employment in Germany (get more info HERE)
  • Seafarers joining their ship in a German harbour (get more info HERE)
  • Studying in Germany (see requirements HERE)
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*Applying for a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy: The Basics
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_1_The Basics

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Basically, there are 5 things you need to do to get a Schengen visa from the German embassy:

  1. Prepare your travel itinerary.
  2. Fill up the online application form.
  3. Gather all your requirements.
  4. Set an appointment at the Germany embassy.
  5. Go to the embassy at the appointed date and time and submit your requirements.

Personal appearance is necessary.

The earliest time you can apply for a visa is 3 months before you intend to enter the Schengen area. For example, if your flight from the Philippines to Germany is on the first week of November, the earliest you can apply for a visa is on the first week of August.

According to the embassy website, processing will take one week — and it is NOT possible to expedite the visa processing.
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Step 1: Prepare your itinerary
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_2_Step 1 Prepare your itinerary

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The first thing you need to do is to prepare your travel itinerary because you will need to write the details of your trip when you fill up your application form online (in Step 2).

The information and documents you need to have on hand are as follows:
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Anti-Offloading Tips from an Immigration Officer

Anti-Offloading Tips from an Immigration Officer | SGMT —
Plus guidance straight from the Bureau of Immigration and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).


I recently had the chance to put a few questions to an Immigration officer and he kindly agreed to give me a few tips for travelers who might be nervous about getting offloaded. (I promised him I would keep his identity confidential, even though he didn’t really require this as a condition to answering my questions, and I also assured him he didn’t have to reveal any “trade secrets” from the Bureau of Immigration.) Please take note that these tips are for legit tourists, particularly first time travelers who might understandably be worried about the possibility of being offloaded. If you’re reading this so you can find out how to fool the Immigration officer at NAIA, I urge you to please, please reconsider your plans. You may have good intentions — maybe you just want to work so you can send your kids to school and get your family out of poverty — but the risks can be very high. It might be your family who will end up having to sell everything to save you, so please think about it.

Required Documents: The Basics

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First of all, if you haven’t read “Pinoy Abroad: List of Documents Required by Immigration for International Travel” please do so right now. (The link will open in a separate tab so you don’t have to leave this page.) That article will give you a list of documents you have to bring when you travel — the basic requirements, the additional documents that may be required if the Immigration officer has doubts about you, the requirements if someone else is paying for your trip, and the list of people who need a DSWD travel clearance or a Travel Authority. If you want to be really prepared — to the point of being over-prepared sometimes — you’ll find even more tips here: “Offloading, required documents, and other Immigration FAQs.”
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An Immigration Officer’s Tips

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Here’s the gist of what the immigration officer said when I asked him for tips for first time travelers:
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Pinoy Abroad: List of Documents Required by Immigration for International Travel

SGMT | List of Documents Required by Immigration — 
In 2014, I wrote a post titled “What Filipinos Need to Know About Traveling Abroad: Guidelines from the Bureau of Immigration” and since then, I’ve had a lot of people writing to me and asking for advice on how to “pass” the Immigration screening. Two years have gone by since that article first came out so I thought I’d create this updated list of documents that travelers may be required to show at the Immigration counter.
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What documents are required for ALL Filipinos who are traveling abroad as tourists?
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  1. Passport issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) – must be unexpired with at least 6 months remaining validity*
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  2. Visa – if required at the final destination
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  3. Return ticket

*I emailed Immigration some time ago and they verified that the passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of departure.

The visa must be unexpired.

You must have a ticket for your flight back to the Philippines. A few people have asked if return tickets are still needed if, for example, they plan to go backpacking around Southeast Asia and don’t want to set their schedule in stone. I asked an Immigration officer about this and, yes, you still need a return ticket. This is because the country you are heading to — and most other countries — will almost certainly require tourists to present a return/onward ticket upon arrival, as proof that you don’t intend to stay in their country illegally or for longer than you’re permitted. Without a return/onward ticket, you could be sent back to the Philippines.

  • If you really intend to go on a trip without making specific plans for return, I suggest you set an estimated date of return and: (a) buy a ticket back to the Philippines from a budget airline, so it won’t hurt your pocket too much if you decide not to use it, OR (b) buy a ticket from an airline that will let you change travel dates. This strategy might cost you a bit more but that’s better than being sent back — prudence is cheaper than regret.
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How to Survive the Van to El Nido

2016 July 02

El Nido

The sharp, harsh, imposing limestone cliffs and the sparkling, placid, impossibly blue waters are just some of the reasons people are determined to visit El Nido at least once in their lifetime.

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SGMT — 

El Nido, Palawan is paradise on earth, but as with most paradises, it’s a little tricky to get to. Visitors with a generous budget can fly direct to El Nido via AirSwift; everyone else must fly first to Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan, and from there take a 6-hour ride by bus or van to El Nido. The long travel time in occasionally cramped quarters can test the patience of even the most motivated travelers, but survival — and even an actually enjoyable experience — is quite possible with a bit of preparation.
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  • Book ahead and specify — insist! — that you want to reserve the seats in front, beside the driver. This way you’re likely to have more legroom and less likely to develop motion sickness. We were able to book our van transfer through El Nido Paradise for only P550 — we recommend them. Instead of you having to go to the bus terminal, El Nido Paradise can arrange to have the van pick you up at the airport (no extra fee) or at your hotel (for a P50 surcharge). They can also arrange your tours in El Nido and accept payments via PayPal, which rids you of the necessity to bring too much cash during your trip.
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  • Sleep if you can. Most people do. Bring sleep accessories if you like, such as a neck pillow, an eye mask and ear plugs.
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  • Alternatively, bring entertainment. A 6-hour stint in a van is the perfect excuse to finally read those books or watch those movies you’ve previously been too busy for. Make sure to charge your phone and/or laptop before boarding, and if you have a power bank, bring that along too.
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  • If you’re prone to motion sickness, take your Bonamine an hour before ETD.
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  • Bring water and food you can snack on if necessary.
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  • Six hours can be hell on the bladder; take advantage of the pit stops. The van will stop 2 or 3 times during the journey so people can buy food and do their stuff. Fair warning: the bathrooms along the way aren’t exactly 5-star-resort quality but you’ll be fine.
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  • All vans from Puerto Princesa stop at the Corong-Corong terminal in El Nido. A tricycle (tuk-tuk) can take you the rest of the way to your hotel for only P50.
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  • On our way back to Puerto Princesa, the van we booked was scheduled to leave at 9:30 AM. We got to the terminal in Corong-Corong at around 9:10 AM, and an earlier van that was about to leave invited us to fill its last two seats. We agreed. Unfortunately, they were at the very back of the van — not even the last normal row but in the space where the luggage should have been — and we spent the next 6 hours in a very tight space. We could feel every bump in the road too. Don’t make the same mistake.
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  • If you want, you can have an entire van all to yourself. You can arrange this with El Nido Paradise as well.

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The van ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido won’t be the absolute best 6 hours of your life but it’s survivable and El Nido will be worth it.

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What You Need to Know About Online Passport Application in CEBU (2016)

25 June 2016 | What You Need to Know About Online Passport Application in CEBU

DFA Cebu - Online Passport Application in Cebu

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Good news! You can now apply for a passport online in Cebu and elsewhere in the Philippines. Now there’s no need to start standing in line at the crack of dawn.

Previously, the DFA online appointment system for passport application/renewal only worked in selected DFA offices. Now, the online appointment system has been expanded to include the following DFA Regional Consular Offices and Satellite Offices in the Philippines:

  • Angeles
  • Bacolod
  • Baguio
  • Butuan
  • Cagayan de Oro
  • Calasiao
  • Cebu (yay!)
  • DFA Manila (Aseana)
  • DFA NCR East (Megamall)
  • DFA NCR Northeast (Ali Mall)
  • DFA NCR South (Alabang)
  • DFA NCR West (SM Manila)
  • Davao
  • Dumaguete
  • General Santos
  • Iloilo
  • La Union Legazpi
  • Lucena
  • Pampanga
  • Puerto Princesa
  • Tacloban
  • Tuguegarao
  • Zamboanga

Take note: you still have to go to the DFA office to submit the required documents and have your biometric data captured. The good thing about the online appointment system is that while most DFA offices outside Manila operated on a first-come-first-served basis before — prompting people to start lining up as early as midnight — now you can just show up at your appointed time. Plus, you can now fill in the necessary information online, which saves time at the DFA. Easy!

Online passport application in Cebu

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Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to the passport.gov.ph Home page to read the instructions.
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  2. After reading the instructions, click on Schedule an Appointment on the gray bar at the very top of the page (or just click HERE). There a few more instructions on this page. After making sure you understand everything, check the box next to “I have read and understood the instructions and information on this page, and agree to the Terms and Conditions on the use of this online appointment and scheduling system.” Then click on the blue boxes for either Start Individual Appointment or Start Group Appointment.
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    • You can book an appointment for up to 5 people using the Group Appointment function.
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  3. Fill in the necessary information.

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Where to Stay (or Staycation) in Cebu: 8 Newtown Blvd

SGMT | Cebu Airbnb
Where to stay in Cebu_8 Newtown Blvd_1200x630

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Last week, my family and I made the most of the final days of summer by having an overnight staycation at 8 Newtown Blvd, the three-tower complex of luxe condos located at Mactan Newtown. H is a little water monkey — he can spend hours frolicking and jumping into pools — so I was looking at either a beach resort or a hotel with a nice pool for our staycation. A friend of mine suggested booking 8 Newtown Blvd through Airbnb and it turned out to be perfect.

What we loved about it:

  • Location. Mactan Newtown is just a few minutes away from Mactan Cebu International Airport, which is where my father works, so it was very convenient for us. He could stay in, go to work, and then come back and enjoy.
    • The beaches of Mactan are also nearby, so 8 Newtown Blvd makes a great base for divers, people who plan to go island hopping, guests at a beachfront wedding…basically anyone doing anything in Mactan.
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  • Convenience. There are a lot of dining options within the Mactan Newtown development. Our favorite, only a couple of meters away from 8 Newtown Blvd’s lobby, was Conching’s, which serves delicious manok Bisaya (native chicken). There’s also a McDonald’s in the next building, a 7-11, a coffee shop, and ATM machines for various banks. We were staying at the 18th floor of 8 Newtown Blvd, so it felt like we could just descend to reality whenever we had to and find everything we need nearby, and then go back up to our little cloud and just chill.
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  • The people. The building staff were all very courteous and professional. It was obviously part of their training to always greet guests with a smile. And Seiko and John of Capitarise went out of their way to make our stay in their apartment comfortable.
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  • The apartment itself! We stayed in a unit with one bedroom, one bathroom, one toilet (separate from the bathroom), a living/dining area, and a small kitchen. The smart layout — together with the floor-to-ceiling windows and the liberal use of mirrors — made the apartment feel very spacious, even with four of us staying there. The windows also provided nice views of the sea and the distant mountains, which I loved; nothing like the sight of sunlight breaking through clouds and the varying hues of mountains beyond mountains beyond mountains to lift one’s spirits. There was a cable TV and DVD player; the WiFi was reliable. The kitchen had a huge fridge, an electric kettle, and a microwave. And the apartment had a legit Japanese toilet with all sorts of nifty buttons, which delighted me to no end. 😀
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  • And our favorite: the pool. The clean, new 60-m long infinity pool was perfect for doing laps, while the endless supply of green and yellow lounge chairs was perfect for doing nothing. There was a separate smaller pool for kids but even the big pool had steps and shallow-ish parts where kids can stay safely, gradually becoming deeper towards the “infinity” edge. And we had the pool to ourselves when we were there so…perfect.

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A few pics from our stay at 8 Newton Blvd:
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You can book the condo we stayed in here.

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Where to Stay (or Staycation) in Cebu: 8 Newtown Blvd (Cebu Airbnb)
© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. Verified as of 14 June 2016.
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